When moving to a different country, or state for that matter, you get to experience a new culture, new customs, you get to meet new people, enjoy a life that otherwise you would have never known. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s amazing and yes, it is freaking scary. So what did my marketing-teacher in high-school always say, when I felt like I was in over my head: make a list. And a list I made:
- find an apartment
- pass the Bergenstest
- find a job
Quite simple, isn’t it? Goals that were manageable and achievable, however it took me a very very very long time, countless appointments, many phone-calls, hundreds of emails and a new pair of sneakers to find our new apartment. But I am glad I did get to see all 35 apartments (although in retrospect it rather felt like I viewed 350.000 apartments), and I am glad I went through all the craziness of talking to money-driven realtors, and landlords with crazy expectations for their tenants, because now, both A and I can appreciate the wonderful home we made for ourselves and we appreciate our great landlord. – First goal: check.
I started learning Norwegian mid July. On our drives to and from A’s work in Philadelphia, A and I listened to books on tapes and eagerly repeated everything ‘Sandy’ (our book-on-tape girl) said. I then started taking Norwegian classes at the end of September and was relieved to be done with it mid December (very far from being a native Norwegian speaker, but at least I could order a medium-rare steak at a restaurant without stuttering and searching for words). Mid January I took the bergenstest and towards the end of February the results were in, I passed. – Second goal: check.
Now the last item on my list: find a job. Which proved to be insanely crazy and time-consuming. I sent out about 100 applications for all different kinds of jobs. I received many call-backs and every time I was completely stunned, here is my 3-things-that-are-utterly-wrong-list:
- Who invented the clock? Obviously not someone who was invited to an interview in Norway. It bothered me that it seemed, as no one cared about their appointments. They just showed up whenever, did their thing and left (that goes for employees and employers). For someone, who lives by the saying, ‘if you are not 5 minutes early, you are late’, this is a huge problem.
- Apparently Norwegians don’t like to dress fancy for interviews, which always left me feeling overdressed. I was always the one with a nice fancy interview-suit, while my fellow contestants wore ripped jeans and shirts that weren’t ironed. Memory to myself: appearance is underrated in Norway.
- Wait, who now? Every time I got a call back, I was as giddy as a little child in a candy store. I would research the company, try to figure out a bit about their history, go over the job description again and make very sure, that I am, who and what they are looking for. This too, got lost in translation, it seems with some Norwegians.
So my checklist for every interview always looked like this:
- be on time
- be dressed properly and
- be well prepared
As simple as that. (At this point I also want to point out, that not all Norwegians (employers and employees) fall into the 3-utterly-wrong-list, obviously!)
I had some rather unusual experiences as far as interviews go. Some took place in a small or large group, some took place over the phone, some took place in a restaurant, some took place in an office and I wish half of those interviews wouldn’t have taken place anywhere, at all.
I repeatedly found myself in very strange situations, at one point during an interview the interviewer made me cry, yell and asked me if it was okay if he hugged me after the interview. Some of the interviews felt rather like the first round of Hell’s kitchen, than an actual interview. One fellow-job-searcher was trembling and shaking while answering random questions. Some job-seekers didn’t care at all, some seemed to be under some kind of influence and then, there was me. It was a rather bizarre experience having to go through all of this and yet not having a positive feedback. Maybe it was me, maybe I had to change my strategy. Maybe I had to change my appearance, maybe I should be late, maybe I shouldn’t prepare at all. Maybe.
But I couldn’t help it, so to my last interview, I showed up on time (which meant 5 minutes early), still believing that proper clothing might win me some plus points, well prepared for any questions my possible future boss might ask. And then I experienced a rather different interview, that completely restored my faith and belief into Norwegian-employers. We went for a walk in the city (which also is rather unusual, to say the least). He was drinking his coffee, telling me about the job, asking me questions, wondering about how I would handle stress, how experienced I was in this field, why I was looking for a job and what my expectations were. Quite normal questions if you ask me and tell you what, it was the best interview ever. I rather even enjoyed this interview.
However the winning argument, as to why he gave me the job and why I accepted it, was that my new boss’ last sentence after the interview was, ‘You showed up on time, you are not dressed like a homeless person and you actually know what you are talking about, I appreciate that‘.